Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Notes on Politics/News: More AIG Nuttiness, Health Care Bill Payoffs, Heenes Going to the Slammer

More AIG Nuttiness

Just when you thought that the news about federal bailout recipient AIG couldn’t get any more pathetic – you remember AIG, the company of which the federal government/American taxpayers own nearly 80 percent – the Washington Post comes along and likens them to Mr. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life. (Okay, so the Post didn’t exactly make that comparison. That’s all me and my own editorializing.) Here’s what the Post said today about the latest AIG antics:

“When word spread earlier this year that American International Group had paid more than $165 million in retention bonuses at the division that had precipitated the company's downfall, outrage erupted, with employees getting death threats and President Obama urging that every legal avenue be pursued to block the payments.

New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo threatened to publicize the recipients' names, prompting executives at AIG Financial Products to hastily agree to return about $45 million in bonuses by the end of the year.

But as the final days of 2009 tick away, a majority of that money remains unpaid. Only about $19 million has been given back, according to a report by the special inspector general for the government's bailout program.

. . . Dozens of employees have hired lawyers, bracing for a fight if AIG or government officials try to block the payments.”

Now, if it hadn’t been for the infusion of $180 billion in the form of a federally funded capital and loan rescue package, there would be no money for bonuses because the company would've gone bust and those employees now demanding the money would be out looking for work. And these AIG folks are supposedly "bracing for a fight" with lawyers to argue that that’s their money? Sure the funds might’ve been contractually agreed upon BEFORE the economy collapsed and AIG was left teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, but the moment the company accepted a federal bailout, all the rules changed.

In the face of double-digit unemployment, the fact that these folks have the temerity to argue that they’re right to take this action is akin to saying that Mr. Potter was right to keep the Bailey Building & Loan money because, well, you know what they say about possession and the law.

Heath Care Bill Payoffs

On Christmas Eve morning, members of the U.S. Senate are going to be called upon to cast another vote on the controversial health care reform bill, after many of its members have already been paid off with taxpayer money directed toward their states in exchange for their “yeas” on proposed legislation which many progressives are saying isn’t much of a reform in the first place.

Reading the galling list of last-minute payoffs senators accepted for their states in exchange for their vote, I keep wondering if this marquee legislation for the Obama administration is an example of “change” I can believe in. Alas, it looks a whole lot like business as usual.

It was nearly 12 months ago when people extolled the virtues of "change" and a “new” bipartisan era in Washington. One would think that those who claimed to embrace those ideals would vote yes or no on a bill based on whether they do or do not believe in it, and based on whether they think it's good for the people in their state and the country overall. And if you go out and complain that a bill’s no good, only to do a complete 180 after a couple of million federal dollars (from an already bankrupt federal government racking up massive debts) are tossed your way, you’re a sell-out, according to the standards established by the "hope" and "change" crowd.

But those rules apparently no longer apply. The New York Times explained the health care bill favors thusly: “Items were inserted into the bill by the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, to get or keep the support of various lawmakers. He needs support from all 60 members of his caucus to overcome a Republican filibuster and pass the bill by his self-imposed Christmas deadline.”

What kind of “items?” Fox News had a list which included: exempting the state of Nevada from having to pay for expanding Medicare to its citizens (worth $100 million) so Sen. Ben Nelson would vote in the affirmative; $300 million in Medicaid benefits for Louisiana so that its senator, Mary Landrieu would approve and at least $10 billion for community health centers to appease Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (not including the $600 million earmarked to help Vermont with its Medicare costs). ABC World News with Diane Sawyer ran a stinging new segment on the vote and the Senate bill's special provisions, including having a reporter attempt to shame the senators by asking them if they’d actually read the bill.

Amidst all the posturing over a bill that I’ll bet 80 percent of the congressmen and women who'll be voting on it have not even read, there’s the political theater. This week, one of the more creative actors in this sad little off-Broadway drama was the freshman senator from Illinois, appointed by that paragon of ethics, former Gov. Blago. You know him as Sen. Roland Burris:

Both Heene Parents Going to the Slammer

Come January 11, 2010, instead of lying and telling the world that his young son had accidentally been taken aloft careening through the Colorado skies in a runaway homemade helium balloon, Richard Heene will be going to big house for 30 days, followed by 60 days of a work-release program (where he’ll be in jail overnight), followed by four years of probation, community service and a ban on making any money off the incident that made him a household name, so ordered a Colorado judge after Heene pleaded guilty to charges related to perpetrating the hoax.

A hearing on how much restitution Richard and Mayumi Heene will have to pay to defray (or cover) the tens of thousands of dollars spent by authorities to save the boy they’d been told was in the balloon, will happen at a later date, the judge said.

As for Mayumi Heene, who placed the crying call to 9-1-1, the judge also sentenced her to 20 days in jail to be served after her husband Richard completes his sentence. Like her husband, she’ll also get probation and community service requirements and is banned from making money from the hoax.

May this be a warning to you reality show knucklehead wannabes: Don't try this at home.

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